After tragedy, a Spring Grove woman finds faith, hope, and healing to begin a new chapter in her life
By Karen Hendricks
Photography by Kelsey Kinard
Imagine a fall wedding in the woods, a casual reception in a barn. There’s hot apple cider, pulled pork, pies, popcorn, and just a good time “hanging out” with close friends and family.
When Dody Tome-Kern and Matt Kern married on Nov. 3, 2018, the Spring Grove couple wanted their wedding to be meaningful and real. To reflect their personalities, their love of the outdoors.
“The people who shared in our day were the ones closest to us, so keeping it simple was the key,” says Dody. “I felt like at this point in our lives, we don’t need anything showy…we adore each other, the love is strong, and we wanted to join our lives.”
It sounds in many ways like a picturesque storybook wedding. And, it was.
But it took years for this bride with her beautiful smile to consider marriage. That’s because she’d already had the traditional, big fairy-tale wedding with all the trimmings years before—a first marriage to her high school sweetheart that ended in tragedy and left her a widow with two young children.
Her two dream weddings were 10 years apart; she needed time and faith before discovering a second chance at love.
High School Sweethearts
Dody and David Tome became friends in middle school, grew up in the same circle of friends, and began dating during their junior year at Spring Grove Area High School.
“We were best friends,” says Dody. “We had the same goals and dreams, and we both knew we wanted to start a family fairly early. If I had a dream of what a marriage looked like, that was it.”
They both graduated from Penn State University, and, after seven years of dating, the couple married on Sept. 15, 2001.
“It was four days after 9/11, but it was still beautiful—happy times during tragic times,” Dody recalls.
She worked at York County Children & Youth Services as a case worker; he utilized his landscaping degree. “But enrolling in the police academy became his passion,” says Dody. She supported his career change, and he was hired by Northern York County Regional Police (NYCRP).
“As a wife and expectant mom, you fear the worst [being a police officer’s wife.]I remember David reassuring me that if anything happened to him, the police would contact me immediately,” she says.
Their son Elijah (Eli) was born, followed by daughter Joslyn. Dody describes a happy home life—David was a great dad, and Dody fulfilled her dream of being a stay-at-home mom.
But everything changed in October 2008. David, reconstructing an accident scene on U.S. Route 15, was struck and killed by a distracted driver.
“I think everybody’s attitude is that it’s not going to happen to you,” says Dody. “David always followed procedures and was very cautious. When he left that morning, I was still in bed, he said goodbye, and I didn’t have a fear—he was going to reconstruct an accident. And how could that be dangerous?”
They were both 31 years old and had been married for seven years. David had served more than five years with NYCRP. Their children were 5 years and 18 months old.
Dody focused on positivity, her faith in God, and being a mom for her growing children.
“Due to David, I found purpose,” says Dody. She began speaking to high school students about the dangers of distracted driving, was instrumental in having driver’s education reinstated into Spring Grove’s curriculum, helped organize a 5K in David’s honor, and more.
“Honestly, for my emotional state, I had to back off a little bit,” she says.
About two years ago, Dody’s life began to change. She reentered the workforce as a kindergarten aide. She was also introduced, by a mutual friend, to Matt, now 45.
“It was hard for me to let my guard down, to trust again,” says Dody. “I didn’t want to compare. No one could be David. I wasn’t looking to replace him.”
Matt, a forester employed by the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, was also from Spring Grove.
“His sense of humor drew me in. Matt finds a way to make me laugh—he has that personality. He’s just fun. But the other thing that drew me to Matt was he would visit David’s gravesite—he cared a lot about us,” she says with tears in her eyes.
The couple tied the knot after dating for two years. It had been a decade since the accident.
“After David died, and healing through that time, finding someone to share the rest of my life was important,” Dody says, now 40.
She says both of their families were excited and supportive of their wedding. Matt’s stepfather, a retired pastor, married the couple. Daughter Joslyn was Dody’s maid of honor.
And Matt’s woodworking talents were on display—he made benches for the wedding and a pie stand for the reception.
A New Life Together
Today, the family is adjusting to a new normal. The kids are now 15 and 12, and the household hums with family activities. Eli just registered for next year’s sophomore classes, including the driver’s ed class his mom helped reinstate. One of Dody’s priorities is everyone sitting down together for dinner every night.
It was important for her to keep David’s name while adding Matt’s name, creating her new hyphenated name, Tome-Kern.
“We didn’t make the choice, David and I, to separate. Losing his name would be really heartbreaking, and I would never want to not have the same last name as my kids. Matt is awesome, and he knew,” she says.
Dody says her happiness is intertwined with bittersweet moments. “My son adores baseball, and his dad had a love of sports, too. Sometimes when I see his name [Tome] on Eli’s back, playing baseball…it brings tears.”
Just like the merging of her names, Dody says, “we’re merging and adjusting and blending as a family, and it’s not all butterflies, but we love each other and want a life together.”
Everything Changed in an Instant
On Oct. 21, 2008, Officer David Tome was reconstructing a traffic accident when he became the victim of a fatal accident. It happened on U.S. Route 15 in Franklin Township, York County, when he was struck by a distracted driver and killed instantly, despite traffic cones blocking off the lane where he was working. Police say the driver, a Dillsburg woman, was speeding, tailgating, using her phone, and applying makeup. She was convicted of vehicular homicide and served a jail sentence of just under a year.
Distracted driving is “any activity that diverts attention from driving,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and it claimed 3,450 lives across the nation in 2016.
A Love of the Outdoors
Dody and Matt infused their wedding with an easygoing, outdoorsy style that was big on personality yet low on cost.
How did they do it? These were their wedding and reception sources:
Wedding site and barn reception site: Both provided by family friends
Bridal bouquet: Etsy
Bridal hairstyle: Created by Dody’s sister-in-law Jessica Leib of Perfectly Pampered Salon, Spring Grove
Suspenders and bowties: Etsy
Boutonnieres: Made by Dody’s sister-in-law
Wedding ceremony décor: Local farm market flowers; rugs purchased on Amazon
Catering, including pulled pork and brisket, green beans, potatoes, and more: Menges Mills Market, Spring Grove
Pies: Brown’s Orchards & Farm Market, Loganville
Photography: Lovefusion Photography